Skip to comments.Novak: No anti-Semitism in Gibson's 'Passion'
Posted on 11/03/2003 8:27:06 AM PST by Brian S
November 3, 2003
BY ROBERT NOVAK SUN-TIMES COLUMNIST
When a private viewing of Mel Gibson's ''The Passion of Christ'' was completed at a Washington hotel 10 days ago, my wife and I along with a dozen other invited guests were emotionally frozen into several minutes of silence. The question is whether public presentation of the film four months hence shall be welcomed by tumultuous demonstrations outside the theaters.
Hollywood actor Gibson, who spent more than $25 million of personal funds to produce ''The Passion,'' has finally found a distributor to begin its showing Feb. 25 -- Ash Wednesday. A campaign by some Jewish leaders to radically edit the film or, alternatively, prevent its exhibition appears to have failed. This opens the door to religious conflict if the critics turn their criticism into public protest.
That is not because of the content of ''The Passion.'' As a journalist who has actually seen what the producers call ''a rough cut'' of the movie and not just read about it, I can report it is free of the anti-Semitism that its detractors claim. The Anti-Defamation League and its allies began attacking the movie on the basis of reading a shooting script without having actually seen the film. The ADL carries a heavy burden in stirring religious strife about a piece of entertainment that, apart from its artistic value, is of deep religious significance for believing Christians.
The agitation peaked in early August when New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind told a rally: ''This film is dangerous for Jews all over the world. I am concerned that it would lead to violence against Jews.''
Hikind had not viewed the film. After an ADL representative viewed a rough cut, longtime ADL director Abraham Foxman on Aug. 11 declared the movie ''will fuel hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism.'' Foxman called on Gibson to change his film so that it would be ''free of any anti-Semitic message.''
This renews the dispute over the Jewish role in the crucifixion of Christ, the source of past Jewish persecution.
''The Passion'' depicts in two hours the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. To watch him beaten, scourged and crucified so graphically is a shattering experience for believing Christians and surely for many non-Christians as well. It makes previous movie versions of the crucifixion look like Hollywood fluff. Gibson wants to avoid an ''R'' rating, but violence is not what bothers Foxman.
Foxman and other critics complain that the Jewish high priest Caiphas and a Jewish mob are demanding Christ's execution, but that is straight from the Gospels.
Father C. John McCloskey, director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, told me: ''If you find the Scriptures anti-Semitic, you'll find this film anti-Semitic.''
Complaints by liberal Bible scholars that ''The Passion'' is not faithful to Scripture are rejected by the Vatican. Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos, who heads the Congregation for the Clergy, called the film ''a triumph of art and faith,'' adding: ''Mel Gibson not only closely follows the narrative of the Gospels, giving the viewer a new appreciation for those biblical passages, but his artistic choices also make the film faithful to the meaning of the Gospels.''
As for inciting anti-Semitism, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos contended ''the film does nothing of the sort.'' This Vatican official is denying that Gibson violates the 1965 papal document Nostra Aetate, which states: ''What happened in [Christ's] passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today.''
No such libel is committed by ''The Passion,'' where the mob's Jewish identity is not specified. As a Catholic convert, I was taught we are all sinners who share in guilt for the crucifixion.
At the heart of the dispute over ''The Passion'' is freedom of expression. Liberals who defended the right to exhibit Martin Scorsese's ''The Last Temptation of Christ,'' which deeply offended orthodox Christians, now demand censorship of ''The Passion of Christ.'' As a result, Abe Foxman and his allies have risked stirring religious tensions over a work of art.
McCloskey converted Novak to Catholicism.
As spoken in sync with jewish oral traditions of condemnation, and as spoken by a crowd of jews, to Pontius Pilate, a Roman, pleaded with them to spare Jesus, and including members of the Sanhedren, and the keepers of the temple.
A distinct part of the passion of christ, that gives animation to the idea of salvation through ressurection, is that Jesus was rejected and condemned by his own people, the jews. It is, furthermore, a distinct and promenent part of the doctrine of salvation through resurrection that those who know OF Jesus, but do not accept him as savior, are condemned. This exactly describes central religeous tenates of orthodox jewery. Recite the Shema, and think about it for a minute, if you have some doubt about this.
There is no historical controversy, or ambiguity attending the historical record that this was the basis for second class citizenship (not to mention numerous mass murders) of jews for about 800 years, in catholic europe.
Orthodox christian churches have been contorting their doctrines into pretzels to distance themselves from this sorry record, ever since the catholic churches' role in the Holocaust has come under scrutiny, but it is rather hard to cover up the hundreds of passages like the one from Matthew I just quoted, in the Gospels, that disparage jews, or jewish traditions, or particular jewish sects.
Do you imagine that christians should consider the new testement, (lets take Matthew(27:5) for example) to be amorphous, vague guidelines that should be just laughed off when they seem a bit embarassing to modern sensibilities?
I am told that the film modifies Matthew(27:5)--small wonder.
Given that the Catholic Church's role in the Holocaust consisted mainly in saving many many thousands of Jews and pissing off Hitler, I'm curious to know what you might mean by this.
I believe he is distributing it on his own in conjunction with a small independent film company. Mel's no dummy. This film is going to be a blockbuster, and he is going to make a boatload of money. Good for him.
Liberal: Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
When you take serious charges, and you throw them around lightly, you end up dessensitizing the world to the full implications. In light of recent world history, anti-Semite is a grave charge indeed. Perticularly on this webseite. Here is the quote you took out of context:
"Well, why do you call him a terrorist? I mean, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."
So, in fact, Novack was not saying that he disliked Jews or Isreal, but that he did not find the term "terrorist" to be journalistically objective. I disagree with him there, and you are free to do so as well. But first, you owe the man an apology.
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